More and More Companies Getting Involved in Industrial Medicine

    Family medicine

    Industrial medicine, also called occupational medicine, has taken on more prominence over the past couple of decades as American workers have gotten less healthy and health insurance costs have continued to rise. Industrial medicine is the practice of trying to keep workers healthy and free of illnesses and injuries that can hamper productivity. There are a number of ways in which companies have embraced this concept.

    One way companies have always practiced industrial medicine is in pre-employment physicals and drug testing. For many jobs, such as airline pilot and truck driver, physical exams are government requirements. Other professions have added such exams, especially drug testing, over the years. Physical exams and drug tests also may be required after there is an injury in the workplace.

    One of the newer ways companies are getting involved in occupational medicine is through disease prevention. Many companies now either offer flu vaccines and other vaccines at onsite clinics or they will pay for employees to have them done by their own family doctor. Vaccines prevent more than 2.5 deaths every year worldwide, but for employers, offering vaccines is more about making sure their employees remain as healthy as possible so they don’t miss much work. Health problems, including preventable diseases, cause more than 69 million U.S. workers to miss at least one day a year, which is a big drag on productivity.

    Vaccines to stop acute illnesses aren’t the only ways employers are voyaging into industrial medicine. Many companies now offer carrots for those who get health conditions under control or end unhealthy habits while some wield sticks for the same purpose. In doing this, companies either provide monetary or other benefits to people who lose weight, quit smoking, reduce their blood pressure or do some other healthful activity. Other companies penalize the people who refuse or fail to do these things. This is an important activity for companies, because chronic diseases account for about 75% of all medical spending.

    One other way in which companies are getting involved in occupational medicine is by partnering with medical clinics or in some cases even setting up their own. Having a health clinic either on site or partnering one that gives employees preference can ensure employees are seeing a doctor when they need to and also cut down on lost productivity and reduce absences. It also can reduce the amount of money the company has to spend on health insurance.

    These are just a few of the ways that companies are getting involved in industrial medicine, and the trend is likely to keep increasing as health costs continue to rise.

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